Comedy Central has been on the air now for 30 years. Since Nov. 15, 1989 — when it was The Comedy Channel — it has been the go-to network for comedy, from original programming and movies to favorites and cult classics in syndication. In honor of that 30-year milestone, I've compiled the 30 best original series of the network's history.
Created by Alex Anfanger and Dan Schimpf — who also created the brilliant comedy web series "Next Time on Lonny" — "Big Time..." followed the delusional Dolfe brothers (Anfanger and Lenny Jacobson) as they fell down a rabbit hole of drugs, violence, criminal conspiracies and one amazing chimpanzee... all because they didn't take well the fact that their parents planned to kick them out of the house. "Big Time..." distilled Anfanger and Schimpf's love of multiple genres and stylistic filmmaking into a serialized story of buffoonery and coincidence that thankfully got to tell a complete story in one season. But in a better world, it would've lasted much longer.
Sure, Craig Kilborn started it and Trevor Noah has continued it, but "The Daily Show" is really only one of the greats when you're talking about the Jon Stewart era. Critically, relevance-wise, and just look at all the talent who came out of this era: Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Nancy Carell, Rob Corddry, Mo Rocca, Jessica Williams, Wyatt Cenac, Nate Corddry, Rachael Harris, Josh Gad, Ed Helms, Aasif Mandvi, Al Madrigal, Trevor Noah (and look at him now), Jordan Klepper, Hasan Minhaj, Rob Riggle, Kristen Schaal, Demetri Martin, Andy Kindler, Larry Wilmore, and even...Michael Che.
This is perhaps one of the biggest "duh"s here, as "The Colbert Report" changed the game on comedic "fake news" (back when "fake news" was actually a good thing), arguably eclipsing the show from which it spun off, "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
There are a number of "all-time" great Comedy Central shows that lasted only one season, but "Stella" is perhaps at the top of that list. In addition to the title of the show, Stella is David Wain, Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter's sketch comedy troupe (spun off from "The State"). The series itself was based on the Stella shorts that the trio had made from 1998-2002, though it was much tamer than the original shorts. It was also Wain, Black and Showalter at their most absurd, which goes back to that whole lasting only one season thing.
Reno 911! was a masterclass in improv comedy that lasted for six seasons (and a movie!). Niecy Nash, Tom Lennon, Robert Ben-Garant, Cedric Yarbrough, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Again, we were truly so blessed, and we never really appreciated it.
"The Other Two" isn't just one of the best Comedy Central shows of all time, but it's also one of the most surprising shows of 2019. What could have easily been a show about its lead characters, Brooke (Heléne Yorke) and Cary (Drew Tarver), resenting their famous younger sibling Chase (Case Walker) and his newfound fame, actually ended up being a sweet — but still hilarious — show about family. Yes, "in this climate." Also, "Stink" is still upsettingly catching.
“I stole the TV!” Amy Sedaris regularly steals the show no matter what show she’s on, but let us not forget the legacy of Jerri Blank. The trouble, sloppy legacy of Jerri Blank.
"South Park" has been on for 23 seasons (and has a feature film to its name). If that doesn't tell you how important it is to Comedy Central, then nothing will.
Celebrities recreating drunken comedians' retellings of history — who knew it could be so fun? (The answer is Derek Waters. Derek Waters knew it could be so fun.)
There was a sketch comedy renaissance from 2011-2013, with “Portlandia,” “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” “Key & Peele,” “Kroll Show,” and, “Inside Amy Schumer.” Those last three were all Comedy Central sketch shows. But the one that came first of those three was “Key & Peele,” the sketch show that really brought forth how cinematic weekly sketch comedy could be, in a variety of ways — not just the way one pretaped “SNL” sketch a week could be: “Key & Peele” was switching up genres and cinematography with every sketch while also creating multiple viral sketches per episode. The further we get away from “Key & Peele” — and the more Jordan Peele’s career as a director grows — the existence of the show only becomes more and more surreal.
"Oh, hello." Now, intricate sketch comedy? That was "Kroll Show's" domain. Focusing his style of character-driven comedy on different genres of "trash" TV (mainly reality TV), Nick Kroll was able to create a surprisingly layered world and cast of characters in three seasons of "Kroll Show." It all led up to one big finale, bringing it all together.
Created by Pat Bishop, Matt Ingebretson, and Jake Weisman (with Bishop directing and Ingebretson and Weisman starring), "Corporate" has only one more season before it's officially over, but it's already reached all-time great status with just its first two. The key to "Corporate" is that it's basically "Better Off Ted" on bath salts. In fact, no episode of "Corporate" better exemplifies that than Season 2's "The Expense Report," guest-starring Kyra Sedgwick as the incredibly over-the-top Mrs. Cowboy.
If not one of the best shows of Comedy Central's history, then it's certainly one of the most memorable. In fact, there was a time in Comedy Central's history when you couldn't turn it on without there either being an episode of "Win Ben Stein's Money" on or a commercial for it. Honestly, remember when Ben Stein's whole shtick was a thing? For 715 episodes?
Starring and co-created by Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson (alongside Zach Kanin and Joe Kelly), "Detroiters" was often lauded as the funniest show on TV during its brief time on the air. Really, one of the worst thing Comedy Central has done in recent memory (other than bring back "Crank Yankers" in 2019) is cancel "Detroiters."
For five seasons, Abbi and Ilana ran around New York City “with [their] little foibles and [their] little mishaps and [their] little shenanigans." (That line from the final season still perfectly describes the series to a T.) And sometimes they (as in, the real Abbi and Ilana) allowed a perfect "Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit" recreation to happen on their series.
Half improv, half local news parody/mockumentary, "Dog Bites Man" starred funny people Zach Galifianakis, A.D. Miles, Andrea Savage and Matt Walsh as a struggling news team that traveled all around America to produce news segments. The series was also created by Dan Mazer, Sacha Baron Cohen's longtime creative partner, so in theory, it should have succeeded.
Comedy Central is always at its best when it's showcasing comedy from all different types of comedians, and "The Meltdown..." was just that, distilled into a delightful package. R.I.P. "The Meltdown..." and R.I.P. Meltdown.
Real '90s kids remember "Mystery Science Theater 3000" on Comedy Central (and as it was before, The Comedy Channel), which means it was also the earliest example that Comedy Central's brand isn't exactly one specific type of comedy (which is great!).
A true heartbreaking work of staggering genius, it's hard to tell if there will ever be another comedy like "Review," at least, not anytime soon. Andy Daily's Forrest MacNeil is perhaps one of the most tragic television characters of all time. And while that might not sound like it bodes well for a comedy series (and Comedy Central's legacy), it actually does.
Taking Nathan Fielder's real-life business skills and warping them, "Nathan For You" was a fascinating series about anxiety and bonkers ideas. You know, the stuff of comedy gold. And the thing was, Nathan's "help" for struggling businesses actually got one of the clients their own TV show, so it was all clearly a success.
"Another Period" took reality TV-style trashiness and turned it into comedy gold via the Gilded Age. (Eat your heart out, "Downton Abbey.") It was a series that knew exactly what it was doing from the early moment when Natasha Leggero's Beatrice tells Christina Hendricks' Celine, "Ooh, I know — you should be called Chair." "Another Period" reveled in its characters' — from the wealthy to the servants — terribleness (as well as their lack of historical context that the audience would have), which only made it funnier.
"The Sarah Silverman Program" is a sitcom that would probably get a lot more mention these days if not for the blackface episode (oh, yes, there was a blackface episode), and it would be deservedly so.
The premise was right there in the title! Like "Dog Bites Man," "Jon Benjamin Has a Van" was partially a news team parody show, but the other part was sketch show. And while it didn't succeed, it so clearly influenced more successful series like "Jon Glaser Loves Gear" and Comedy Central's "Review" and "Nathan For You." In fact, Nathan Fielder of "Nathan For You" was part of "Jon Benjamin Has a Van."
Originally a FOX series (from 1999-2003) and then four direct-to-video films, the cult classic animated series "Futurama" was brought back from the dead in 2010 by Comedy Central. It was only for two more seasons, but considering that Comedy Central also ran the original episodes in syndication and aired the direct-to-video films as its fifth season, "Futurama" is basically more a Comedy Central series than a FOX series.
Like "Detroiters," "Idiotsitter" was also gone too soon. (And in its case, its second season episode order was also cut short.) But at least it happened. Created by and starring Jillian Bell and Charlotte Newhouse, "Idiotsitter" was about Harvard grad Billie (Newhouse) getting tricked into babysitting and tutoring spoiled rich adult woman Gene (Bell) and their tumultuous friendship that follows. The first season also featured an amazing guest appearance by Channing Tatum that should've had people talking.
Honestly, whatever The Young Bucks have done for Rancho Cucamonga, California's image, surely "Workaholics" did the exact opposite. Congratulations to Blake, Adam and Anders.
Long live Squigglevision. With a pre-"Home Movies" Jon Katz and Jon Benjamin — as well as a pre-"The Sarah Silverman Program" Laura Silverman — "Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist" won a Peabody Award and a Daytime Emmy during its six-season run.
You can't talk about Comedy Central's legacy without talking about "Chappelle's Show." (And as a result, you often can't talk about sketch comedy shows on Comedy Central without talking about "Chappelle's Show.") Whatever you think of Dave Chappelle's comedy now, "of the time" as a lot of the sketches in "Chappelle's Show" were, they still hit just right today (especially the Tupac sketch, which will always hit).
An interesting twist on the late-night talk show, "Insomniac" followed Dave Attell to cities all around the world — from NYC all the way to Tokyo and back — where he explored the nightlife of the locals.
As much as scripted comedy is an important part of Comedy Central's legacy, even more important is its contribution to and presentation of stand-up comedy. Going back through the decades of stand-up content from Comedy Central is truly a treasure trove of icons: stars who weren't (yet) and hidden gems.
Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.
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